WEIRTON - Joe Krivak, who died on Christmas Day, lived, taught and coached in Weirton for nine years, left such an impact on his former students and athletes as well as the Madonna community and Weirton community as a whole that he is being remembered with the establishment of the Joe Krivak Memorial Fund.
Krivak, who died at age 77, isn't a native of Weirton, but his wife, the former Jeannie Irvin, is.
The native of Central City, Pa., recalled at the Weirton Hall of Fame banquet in his induction speech last year that the people of the Weirton area were so good to him and his family that he found a home here.
The Joe Krivak Memorial Fund was created in memory of his lifetime work in education as a teacher and coach, and has been established to benefit Madonna High School, the students and the community where his life work began.
Krivak began his career in education at Madonna in 1960 as a teacher and coach. He went on to coach at his alma mater, Syracuse University, and went to the University of Maryland as the quarterbacks coach under Bobby Ross. He became the head football coach at the University of Maryland after Ross left. He established a reputation as one of the outstanding offensive coaches in college football with stops at Syracuse, Maryland, the U.S. Naval Academy, back to Maryland as head coach for four years, and finally, to the University of Virginia.
He coached in 14 bowl games, ran the offense for seven ACC championship teams and turned out six NFL quarterbacks, four of whom played in Super Bowls. In 1984, Krivak was credited for outstanding play calling in Maryland's 31-point come-from-behind victory over the University of Miami, in Miami, which, at the time, stood as the largest comeback victory in NCAA history.
The mission statement of the fund notes that while the school of 180 students receives support from the Diocese of Wheeling, it relies on private donations for many needs from infrastructure upgrades, surveillance and a safety system, improvements in text books and tuition assistance for needy students. Those certainly aren't all of the needs at the school.
Paul Paolisso, who starred at quarterback for the Blue Don football team under Krivak's coaching; Rich Mahoney, who also was an outstanding Madonna quarterback; and Eddie Krivak, Joe's eldest son, are among those instrumental in establishing the fund and are members of the fund's advisory board.
"After Joe's death, the family had a couple of charities, primarily in the Bowie, Md., area where they have lived for a number of years, that were dear to their hearts," Paolisso said on the phone recently. "I had lunch with some of the family one day after the funeral and they revealed to me that they always wanted to do something for Madonna.
"At about the same time, I received some calls from other former Madonna players, Bill Zanieski and Rich Mahoney, to name a couple, seeking information about what they or their Madonna classes could do in Joe's memory."
Paolisso said he talked to Mrs. Krivak and she told him of the family's interest in doing something in Joe's name.
Paolisso, who lives in Ellicott City, Md., near the Bowie area, has contacted many of Krivak's friends and associates at Syracuse University, the University of Maryland and others in that area that knew Krivak in hopes they will support the Fund.
Attorney Dan McCune, who is among those spearheading the fund raising for the Joe Krivak Memorial Fund in Weirton, emphasized that the fund wasn't created to specifically aid Madonna athletics because Krivak was more than just a football and basketball coach at the school, his primary life goal was in education.
McCune, a 1980 Madonna graduate, didn't play for Krivak, but knew him well as a young boy because McCune's mother and father and the Krivaks were close friends.
Zanieski, who starred for Madonna's football teams of the early 1960s, said that Krivak was instrumental in him receiving a football scholarship to attend and play defensive back at Syracuse University.
He said there are a number of his classmates who graduated from Madonna in 1964 who get together frequently and they have discussed previously about establishing some type of memorial at the school in memory of Krivak.
"We were thinking about a memorial plaque, but since we heard about the memorial fund, we are talking about supporting that," Zanieski, a retired Hancock County teacher and coach, said.
"We may decide to do both."
Zanieski said also that he is planning to email the leaders of Madonna classes from 1959 to 1969 urging them to support the Krivak Memorial Fund, too.
McCune said he hopes the Joe Krivak Memorial Fund will be supported by the entire Weirton community because Krivak was a big supporter of the community while living here and even after leaving to coach in the college ranks.
He said the Weirton Area Community Foundation is the administrator of the fund and those desiring to contribute may send contributions to the Joseph Krivak Memorial Fund, c/o Weirton Area Community Foundation, 204 Three Springs Drive, Suite C, Weirton, WV 26062.